21,000 Rohingya flee, drown on escape to Bangladesh

Violence against the Rohingya has forced thousands to flee and cross the border into Bangladesh with dozens missing after a boat capsized in a border river

21,000 Rohingya flee, drown on escape to Bangladesh

World Bulletin / News Desk

Around 21,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh in recent weeks to escape violence in neighbouring Myanmar, an official of the International Organisation for Migration said Tuesday.

Bangladesh has stepped up patrols on the border trying to stem the tide of refugees who have been fleeing a bloody crackdown by Myanmar's army in the western state of Rakhine since early October.

But Sanjukta Sahany, head of the IOM office in Bangladesh's southeastern district of Cox's Bazar which borders Rakhine, said around 21,000 members of the stateless ethnic minority had crossed over in the past two months.

The vast majority of those who arrived took refuge in makeshift settlements, official refugee camps and villages, said Sahany.

"An estimated 21,000 Rohingya have arrived in Cox's Bazar district between October 9 and December 2," she told AFP by phone.

"It is based on the figures collected by UN agencies and international NGOs" (non-governmental organisations).

Those interviewed by AFP inside Bangladesh had horrifying stories of gang rape, torture and murder at the hands of Myanmar's security forces.

Analysis of satellite images by Human Rights Watch found hundreds of buildings in Rohingya villages have been razed.

Myanmar has denied allegations of abuse but also has banned foreign journalists and independent investigators from accessing the area.

Drownings, bodies washed ashore

Dozens are missing and feared drowned after a boat packed with Rohingya fleeing violence in Myanmar and trying to reach Bangladesh sank in a border river Monday, reports and a Bangladeshi fisherman said.

Thousands of Rohingya, a stateless ethnic minority, have arrived in Bangladesh after an outbreak of violence in western Myanmar, where the military is alleged to have committed mass rape and murder and burned villages.

A Bangladeshi fisherman said he had rescued one woman who told him her "overcrowded" boat had sunk in the Naf river after it was chased by a Myanmar army speedboat.

"We heard a woman's desperate cry for help in the morning while we were fishing in the Naf. We quickly paddled to the spot and saw she was fighting to stay afloat," fisherman Suman Das told AFP by phone.

"The woman told us that their boat was overcrowded with Rohingya villagers who tried to cross the river to enter Bangladesh."

The woman did not know what had happened to the others and Das could not say how many people were on the boat.

But the private UNB news agency, quoting a Bangladeshi village councillor, said there were at least 31 Rohingya on board.

Rohingya source told AFP by phone that the bodies of 13 women and children, two of whom had bullet wounds, had washed ashore in his village on Myanmar's side of the Naf.

This could not be independently confirmed, however, and Bangladesh police and border guards said they were not aware of the disaster.

An estimated 30,000 Rohingya have been forced to leave their homes since a bloody October crackdown by the Myanmar army in Rakhine state, where many of them live.

At least 10,000 have arrived in Bangladesh, the United Nations said last week, although Bangladesh says it has prevented large numbers from entering.

Myanmar has denied allegations of abuse, but has also banned foreign journalists and independent investigators from accessing the area to investigate.

aa/afp

Last Mod: 06 Aralık 2016, 11:03
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